On Sunday, Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck will put on a performance of the play 8, based on a California trial to overturn Proposition 8 which banned gay marriage.
Playwright Dustin Lance Black wrote the play to bring light to the un-televised trial of Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Almost all the lines in the play are taken from the trial itself. Saugatuck Center for the Arts Director Kurt Stamm says this play must have been a daunting task for Black.
“So he poured through the entire transcript of this trial to put this piece together, to cull it down to 90 minutes,” says Stamm.
Most of the play centers around the plaintiffs, one gay couple and one lesbian couple. Kris Perry is a mother of twins living with her partner Sandi Stier. Actress Tracey Walker plays Kris. As a lesbian herself, Walker says reading words from the trial is a really moving experience.
“Reading these words, it’s really emotional," Walker says. "And it’s everything, it’s all of the stages. It’s frustration and it’s joy and love and heartbreak and utter anger.”
One of the more moving scenes is when Kris responds to the court calling her sons “illegitimate natural children” from “irresponsible procreation.” Like Kris in the play, Walker says she and her partner would like to be married on a federal level. In the play, Kris explains how same sex marriage is not just about equality, it’s also about the meaning of the word itself.
But the play isn’t just a dramatic reading of the trial, Black added human elements to hold the audience’s interest, like the family dynamic between Kris, Sandi, and their children. Director Kurt Stamm says the play can seem one-sided, but that’s because there weren’t many proponents for Proposition 8 at the trial.
“Yes, seven million voted, but they could only get one witness to testify," Stamm says. "Says a lot about the validity of the case.”
The judge declared Proposition 8 unconstitutional in the trial, but gay and lesbian couples still can’t marry in California. Stamm says the Supreme Court is still hearing appeals on this case.
“Art is usually a reaction to something that’s already happened," says Stamm. "And yes, a piece of this has already happened in fact, yes, the trial has happened. That’s in the past. But the fact that the issue is so prevalent now in the United States, it just makes it that much more poignant.”
You can catch the production of 8 at Mason Street Warehouse in Saugatuck Sunday afternoon at 4, with a panel discussion to follow at 5:30.